Zarb-e-Azb: a shining legacy of Raheel Sharif

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Mehr Ispahani

Zarb-e-Azb started on June 15, 2014; it was aimed at rooting out the menace of terrorism. The security situation was very precarious. Mosques, churches, markets and other places had become soft targets of terrorists. At that time, the incumbent government and the security forces with a mutual consensus initiated a decisive action against terrorism. Now peace has largely been restored in the country. Even People of Karachi are now carrying out their day-to-day activities without any fear.
The operation was launched in phases, and people were provided an opportunity to be shifted to safe areas. Terrorists’ hideouts were destroyed in Shawal, and many operations were carried out in FATA and Swat for establishing the writ of the government. Intelligence Based Operations (IBOs) and combing operations were carried out in four provinces to stop terrorists from carrying out their destructive designs. Operations were also undertaken against facilitators with the help and cooperation of citizens. Army troops seized about 253 tons of explosives, which according to some calculations were enough for terrorists to make ammunition and IEDs for 15 years. Because of restoration of law and order, 61 percent of the IDPs have returned, while the remaining ones would be back by the end of the year. During the rehabilitation phase in FATA, schools, mosques and markets were being built, basic infrastructure was being developed, and a 700-kilometre long road was being built in Waziristan.
Internationally, Pakistan’s sacrifices in the fight against terror must be recognised. Over 70,000 civilians, and more than 15,000 men in uniform have sacrificed their lives in the war on terror. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb is the most appropriate step taken for the peace and prosperity of the country since 1947. One of the NATO commanders stated that from 1945 until now, the Operation Zarb-e-Azb is one of the exemplary and unique operations carried out by any country.
The Pakistan army managed to destroy the command and control system of terrorists. Many terrorists have been killed, and some have fled to Afghanistan to save their lives. The National Action Plan is implemented to search for terrorists throughout the country. Pakistan Rangers have done a phenomenal job as terrorism in Karachi has reduced to a great extent.
One and a half years after the start of the Zarb-e-Azb, phenomenal successes were achieved, with the last pockets close to the Pakistan-Afghan border being cleared. Much has been achieved: terrorists’ backbone broken; structure dismantled; nexus with sleeper cells largely destroyed, IBOs busted remaining sleeper cells; 3,400 terrorists killed; and 837 hideouts from where they were carrying out terrorist activities destroyed. Success came at a heavy price, 488 valiant officers and men of Pakistan army have been martyred.
In July, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif visited the military’s forward-most positions near the Afghan border in North Waziristan He was briefed about the progress and future plans regarding the Operation Zarb-e-Azb; he also met the Pakistani troops stationed there. General Sharif also visited South Waziristan and Wana agencies. It was reported that the Pakistani military had just completed the preliminary preparations for the final phase. In the area around Shawal, peaks were cleared.
As a result of the operation, as of July 14, 929,859 displaced civilians from 80,302 families were registered by the authorities. Financial support, relief goods and food packages were distributed, and 59 donation points were established across Pakistan by the army. The Operation Zarb-e-Azb produced positive results, and the situation has returned to being almost normal in seven agencies of FATA. Currently, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria are in shambles due to acts of terrorism by the aI-Qaeda, ISIS and other militant outfits. But unlike other countries, war against terrorism, including the US-led western countries’ war against these non-state actors, Pakistan’s armed forces have achieved tremendous progress through the ongoing military operation, Zarb-e-Azb. After the militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) massacred 132 school children at the Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, while emphasising national unity against terrorists, General Raheel had repeatedly stated, “Our resolve has taken a new height.” He further added, “We will continue to go after the inhuman beasts and their facilitators till their final elimination.”
Terrorists have met serious setbacks during and because of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, and shall, eventually, be completely eliminated from Pakistan. It appears that militants of the TTP have lost major ground, and in severe frustration, they are trying to create some kind of pressure on the government and the armed forces through terror activities, which are allegedly done with the external support of the Indian RAW and some other foreign secret agencies.
The Chinese president, during his visit to Pakistan, called the Operation Zarb-e-Azb a “game changer for peace and stability in the region.” Factors that contributed in the continued success of the operation are careful planning, along the motivation of troops fighting, and national unity. According to statistical data, overall security situation has been improved, and terrorist attacks in Pakistan in 2016 dropped to a six-year low since 2008.
Weighing up the accomplishments of the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, comparatively, there is peace and tranquility in cities that were formerly under a severe militant menace, predominantly FATA. We need to motivate our armed forces and keep their morale high; as a nation, this is our responsibility and we should be fulfilling it with full vigour.